Sen. Saxhaug meets with ServeMinnesota members

Members of the ServeMinnesota program met with Sen. Tom Saxhaug Friday morning at Murphy Elementary School to discuss the success of the AmeriCorps programs and called for legislative investment into the program.

The short meeting featured a welcome from Murphy Elementary’s principal, Sean Martinson, and presentations from the ServeMinnesota Director of Strategic Implementation Erin Haley-Strub, Reading Corps, Pre-K Lead Master Coach Allison Breininger, and ServeMinnesota Vice President of External Relations Lisa Winkler.

ServeMinnesota requested an increase of $5.8 million for the 2017 fiscal year and $6.3 million in 2018 and beyond. This is more than a 90 percent increase in funding for Reading Corps, to reach more children in early learning centers and schools throughout the state, targeting resources where there is lowest proficiency. Nearly 90 percent of current funding for ServeMinnesota comes from state and federal aid.

Reading Corps, will also place new tutors and expand to 160 licensed family child care settings and 100 head start classrooms with a goal of serving more than 35,000 children.

“I think this program really demonstrates that... investing in a program that is proven to work is a good decision,” said Winkler.

Last year, the ServeMinnesota AmeriCorps Reading Corps Program has helped more than 30,000 students become successful readers in Minnesota with more than 1,400 tutors and nearly 1,000 locations. The Minnesota Reading Corps also operates in 77 of 87 counties and 279 school districts.

“If students are not [proficient] by eighth grade, that’s an indication that future school is going to be a struggle,” said Haley-Strub.

Saxhaug had the opportunity to see the program in action during the meeting by watching some Reading Corps students and their tutors at work.

“We have found that when the state legislature actually sees a program in action it has profound effect on their support,” said ServeMinnesota Lobbyist Josh Downham.

A recent study in Chicago shows elementary schools and preschool programs that implement Reading Corps have significantly greater outcomes from their students than programs that do not have access to Reading Corps. Preschool participants surpassed their peers on all five early literacy measures: picture name fluency, rhyming fluency, alliteration fluency, letter sound fluency, and letter name fluency.

“You can see that by the end that all of our kids met or exceeded the target,” said Breininger.

ServeMinnesota was created in 1994 to administer and coordinate a variety of community service and volunteer programs Their mission is to serve as a catalyst for addressing critical needs in Minnesota by working with AmeriCorps and community partners.

“[ServeMinnesota] fills in parts where rural Minnesota does not necessarily have the resources to do as much early childhood as needed,” said Saxhaug about the importance of the Reading Corps program.

When asked if he would give ServeMinnesota support Saxhaug replied, “We will, if I have anything to do with it.”

For additional information about ServeMinnesota and AmeriCorps programs visit serveminnesota.org.